Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Stop Searching for Your Pen

Some things are just better kept together. BookSling keeps your pen or highlighter with your book. Why would you want it any other way? Whether you're in a classroom or just lying in bed, it's nice to know your tool of choice is always within easy reach- write where you need it.

Features & Benefits

  • Attaches up to 2 pens, highlighters or pencils to your book.
  • Integrated ribbon provides an optional bookmark you'll never lose.
  • High quality woven elastic stretches 7.5-12" to fit most mid-to-large books.
  • Elastic can also be used as a bookmark or stretched around the entire book to keep it closed.
  • Thoughtful design allows your book to maintain a thin profile so it can be stored flat on a bookshelf or in a backpack.
  • Works on hard and soft cover books.
  • Great for clipboards too!

Works best with non-rubberized writing instruments.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase the Booksling from Everyday Innovations.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tips for Cleaning Wicker and Cane Furniture

The original environment of wicker and cane is humid and tropical, and even though furniture pieces made from these sources may now live in homes in far away non-exotic places, their need for humidity and lush warmth never dies. Cater to this need and your wicker and cane furniture will continue to look great!

Most of the time, a good vacuuming is all your wicker furniture needs. You can plug your hose into the exhaust port and simply blow the dust away. The real problem with this type of furniture is that it can easily yellow. To avoid this, clean it by rubbing with a stiff brush dipped in warm salt water. Be careful not to wet the wicker too much. If dirt is really stubborn, you might have to risk wetting it a little bit more. Mix a solution of 1 part water softener to 8 parts water, wipe off with a clean cloth and let dry naturally without heat to prevent cracking.

To clean cane, add a little lemon juice and salt to some warm water. Using a stiff brush, scrub the cane well with the solution. This application will also prevent the surface from yellowing. Marks and dirt deposits can be removed by applying some warm soapy water mixed with a little borax. Let the solution dry naturally.

A humidifier can help maintain the temperature in which wicker and cane thrive best. Consider buying one. Sometimes dried wicker can be restored with a little lemon oil. In general, neither wicker nor cane like cold temperatures and should be brought inside during the colder months.

Braille Magnetic Letters

Here's a great learning tool! Not only is each magnetic piece in the shape of the print capital letter, but the Braille equivalent is embossed onto each one as well. Blind and sighted people can reinforce Braille skills and practice spelling out words together by sticking the letters onto a refrigerator, filing cabinet, or cookie sheet. And best of all, none of the pieces will slide around while being read by touch.

Click this link to purchase the Braille Magnetic Letters from Future Aids and don't forget to purchase a set of Braille Magnetic Numbers.

That's right, you already know what these are ... Almost. What's cool about this 26-piece set, though, is that there aren't just the numbers from 0 through 9 with Braille on them. Also included is a second set of numbers, as well as the standard math signs. This way, assuming there's a real math whiz around, you'll have your Braille numbers down pat in no time!

Future Aids: The Braille Superstore
(A Division of MarvelSoft Enterprises, Inc.)
33222 Lynn Ave.
Abbotsford, BC
V2S 1C9 Canada
Toll Free: 800-987-1231

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How to Play the Alphabet Game

The Alphabet game is a perfectly fun way to pass the time and hone your kid's alphabet, attention and memory skills. The game involves the repeating of the phrase: "I'm going on vacation and bringing..."

This is a simple and fun game to play with kids and adults of almost any age. Here are the basic rules you'll want to follow:

  1. Players must announce one item (food, animal, anything really) that they will bring with them on their trip.
  2. The first person uses the letter A.
  3. The second player must use the letter B, and so on.
  4. The challenging part of this game is that each player must run through the entire list on every turn. This challenges everyone's vocabulary and memory (not just the little ones!). When you get to the second half of the alphabet it gets rather dicey trying to recall what item starting with F or G is going to be included.

Here is an example of how things could proceed in a game with three players: Player 1: I am going on vacation and bringing an Apple. Player 2: I am going on vacation and bringing an Apple and a Butterfly. Player 3: I am going on vacation and bringing an Apple, a Butterfly and a Chalkboard. Player 1: I am going on vacation and bringing an Apple, a Butterfly, a Chalkboard and a Diaper. And so on.

Another variation of this game is to tie each letter/item together. For example, if the first player again says Apple, but now the next in line must come up with a B-word that is related to an Apple. If that next player opts for Banana (sticking with the fruit theme) the following player now needs a C-word that relates to Banana (Central America - the source of some Bananas would be interesting). You may have been thinking another fruit related food item for the letter C, but getting away from the expected can take this version of the game down funny and more difficult paths. This can be made harder, easier or themed depending on what you start with, for example Appendix may cause the entire game to be played with body-part words or words relating to books/literature.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Webmasters, It's Time to Accessify

Have you ever had discussions with people and said, "We need to make that accessible?" or "This site needs to be made 508 compatible"? All gets to be a bit of a mouthful, doesn't it? What is really needed to make these meetings much shorter is a new verb: 'accessify' - to make accessible. Some folks liked this so much that they built a site around it!

The purpose of is to build up a collection of useful resources, links to the best accessibility sites on offer (they're not selfish, they don't have a monopoly) and an online toolset for everyone to use free of charge.

Click this link to visit the home page of

What To Do With Old Print Books

So, you've finished another book. What are you going to do with it now? I'll bet you'll put it on a shelf and forget about it. Wouldn't you like to get another great book and put this one to better use? You can at is a book swapping service. You can post the books that you are willing to swap on the site, and then build a list of books that you'd like to get in return. Bookins manages the swap; when you post an available book that somebody else wants, they contact you. You have two days to decide if you are willing to send the book along to the next person.

Here's the cool thing: they allow you to print a prepaid postage mailer label that you can tape to a box or envelope and simply leave in your mailbox, there is no cost to you (besides the package or envelope).

For each book that you trade, you earn points (4 to 6 for a paperback, about 11 for a hardcover book), and when you have earned enough points, Bookins looks for books on your "want" list that might be available. If they find one that matches, they arrange with another person to send the book to you. This time it does cost you; both the points that the book costs, plus $3.99 for shipping.

Click this link to put those old books to a better use at

Cooking by Numbers

Are you at a loss as to what to make for dinner tonight? Or do you have a limited amount of ingredients and need to make the most of them? Well, now you can! At Cooking by the Numbers, putting together meals has never been easier.

There is a list of ingredients on the site. Just check the boxes next to everything you have, for both the fridge and the cupboard. Once you're done with that, click the Find Recipes button.

This will give you a listing of recipes that you can make with what you have. It also tells you the percentage of your ingredients that matched the recipe. To see more recipes, click the More link or the down arrow.

If you click the I Feel Lucky box, you'll get only one recipe and it tells you the percentage of ingredients that you have and what you are missing.

Say you want to make a chicken dish. You could just check chicken, as well as, a few other ingredients and get a listing for only chicken recipes. For example, if you want to make some sort of chicken pasta, check chicken, tomatoes, cooking oil, pasta and noodles. The results will be mostly different types of chicken pasta dishes, with some tomato dishes thrown in, like Tomato Salad.

Another great section here at this site is Skills by the Numbers. This is where you can learn all sorts of different cooking skills. For example, How to Joint a Chicken, How to Slice a Potato, How to Fold, How to Make Carmel and that's just the tip of the culinary iceberg.

Click this link to start Cooking by Numbers:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How to Play Go Fish

I remember playing Go Fish with my grandmother several years ago. It's a fun little game that's a great way to pass some time on a rainy day. Do you remember how to play? Have you played it with your children? Let's refresh you on the game.

The Rules: If you haven't played in a while, Go Fish begins by shuffling the deck of cards. This is usually a job for the adults. But you can take time to teach the children how to shuffle. You deal out five cards to each player. You can have up to four players comfortably. You look at the five cards you have and if you have any matching pairs, you lay them down - face down or face up.

The youngest player goes first. They begin by asking one of the other players if they have a particular card. For example, do you have any 2s. If you are using a regular deck of cards, you may have them specify - do you have a red 2 or a black 2. You can play Go Fish by suits, but that's a lot harder and can take a lot longer.

If the player who was asked has the 2, they pass it to the person who asked. If they don't have it, they say "Go Fish" and the player who made the request then draws a card from the deck in the center. Play continues clockwise around the table until a player is out of cards. The first person to run out of cards, wins.

Click this link to purchase a braille set of Go Fish cards from the Badger Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired website.

An Alternative to Perkins: The Tatrapoint

Tatrapoint is a mechanical six-key Braille typewriter with adjustable key spacing. Every model comes with adjustable left and right margins and a warning bell 5 cells before the end of the line. It also includes Dymo tape holders on the carriage for making Braille labels.

For years there has been no option for a manual Brailler. Now there is, and it's smaller, lighter, cheaper and more flexible!

The Tatrapoint Adaptive 2, from SVEC a SPOL of Slovakia features:

  • Adjustable left and right margins
  • Adjustable spacing between keys to allow for different sized hands
  • Line-end bell 5 cells before the end of the line
  • Carriage release and backspace key
  • Dymo tape clips integrated for embossing dymo tape
  • Precise paper transport for exact readjustment of corrections in previously written text
  • Dimensions: 40cm x 26cm x 8.5cm
  • Weight: 2.75kg
  • Paper: Standard braille paper (11 1/2 " x 11")
  • Extras: carrying case and shoulder strap

For more information, contact:

SVEC a SPOL s.r.o
Stanicna 502
95201 Vrable
Slovak Republic
Phone: 00421-37-783-3445
Fax: 00421-37-783-3137

Click this link to learn more about the Tatrapoint brailler.

Adobe Can Read PDF Files

One of the biggest access issues on the web right now is our ability to read documents in Adobe's PDF format. There are tons of documents that are produced in this format and most of them can't be easily read by our screen readers. Even sighted folks have trouble reading the print because of the strange colors that were used in the documents or because the print is simply too small.

Adobe is working on this issue by adding a reading option to later versions of its software. Before I go any further, you need to make sure you have a few things in order for this process to work. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 or higher installed and you must have a speaker connected to your computer with the volume turned up. (It's good to have the speaker turned on too!) : )

Once you have both of those things, you can move on. Just follow these directions:

  1. Open any PDF file that you want to read.
  2. If you want Acrobat Reader to read the complete PDF file, press Control+Shift+B and it will start to read the file.
  3. If you want Acrobat Reader to read a selected page, click on the page you want to hear and press Control+Shift+V. It will then read only the page you have selected.
  4. To pause the reading, press Control+Shift+C. To continue reading from a pause, press the same combination of keys.
  5. To stop the reading, press Control+Shift+E.

Note: Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 and higher will only read the contents if the PDF file is in English.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Illuminating LED tweezers

Have you ever needed to put a little extra light on your eyebrows as you try to remove every little hair? The TweezLight and the La-Tweez are quite similar in concept: a LED spotlight built into the tweezers helps the user to focus on hairs, splinters, etc.

Both brands are widely available online, with the TweezLight being easier to find in the US. The La-Tweez is supposedly available in most Australian pharmacies.

Click this link to purchase the TweezLight from

Accessible Self-Voicing Star Trek Game

p>As a huge fan of all the Star Trek series, I'm really excited about this game. I've played this one and if you like Star Trek, this is a must download for you.

Star Trek Final Conflict is a game in which you and the computer take turns shooting at each other as well as moving your ships about the alfa sector. Join in the action as you lead the Federation's most powerful fleet of starships and starbases against the forces of the Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, and Borg. Completely self-voicing, uses Microsoft DirectX 9 and the Microsoft Dotnet Framework 2.0, and 5 action packed levels of gaming experience. You have five of the Star Trek ships from the television series and not only will you shoot, you have to move them about to dock with the starbases, Deep Space Nine and Earth Station McKinley to refuel. Not only that, but your starbases can also fight. You have the following four weapons: a deflector dish, photon torpedos, Quantum torpedos, and phasers.

Click this link to learn more or to download Star Trek Final Conflict from USA Games.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Take Your Magnifier to the Max

For a powerful and affordable digital magnifier mini CCTV that is easy to use - look no further than the Max Full-Color Digital Handheld Magnifier. Use this lightweight, hand-held portable low vision device on any straight or curved surface to magnify images and text from 15x to 30x! Move the Max Full Color Digital Handheld Magnifier over books, newspapers, magazines, or even medicine labels and read with ease. It connects quickly to any TV and is ideal for use at work, school or even on vacation.

Max is a powerful, portable, hand-held digital magnifier mini CCTV designed for people with low vision. The size of a computer mouse, the Max offers multiple viewing options and low vision magnification up to 28x on a 30" TV. View pictures in photo mode or choose between high contrast positive or high contrast negative for easy reading.


  • Magnifies images on any surface, curved or straight from 15x to 30x
  • Four viewing modes: full color, black and white, high contrast negative and high contrast positive
  • Power supply included
  • Built-in RCA and RF jack for connection to any TV
  • Designed for right or left-handed use
  • Weighs less than 4 ounces
  • Light, convenient and easy to use
  • 1 year limited warranty - 30-day money back guarantee

Click this link to purchase the Max Full Color Digital Handheld Magnifier from SHOP.COM.

Double Spacing in MS-Word

A few days ago, my son was working on a document for school. He came to me and asked if I knew how to turn on the double-spacing option in Word. I looked through the menu options and couldn't find it. I eventually was able to locate the feature and he got an A on the paper.

As I sat searching for this feature I thought, "This would make a great Fred's Head article," so here it is!

By default, MS-Word documents are single-spaced, which is great for most of what we do, but what about that small percentage of documents where you need things double-spaced?

Double-spacing is set through the Format menu, Paragraphs option. In the middle section of the Paragraph window entitled Spacing, you will find the Line spacing options. Using the pull down menu, you can select double-spaced or whatever you like. There are several choices listed there.

Once you've made your choice, click the OK button.

You can quickly turn on the double-spacing feature by using the keyboard command Control+2. To go back to single-spacing, use Control+1 and, as an added bonus, 1.5 line spacing is Control+5.

Now, what if you have a document that is already written single-spaced? Simply highlight the entire document (Control+A) and then follow the instructions to double-space the text.

What if you only need a section of the document double-spaced? You have two choices. First, you could turn the double-spacing on at the point it's needed, type the text and then turn it off when you've completed the section. Second, you could go ahead and type the text single-spaced. Then you would highlight the text you want to be double-spaced and follow the above process.

That's it! All the space you could ever want and then some!

Friday, December 08, 2006

USB Microscope for the Visually Impaired

I attended college at the University of Louisville and one of my most interesting times was when I had to take a lab to complete a science credit. Me, being the science fiction fan that I am, chose astronomy as my science class because I thought I knew a little about the subject and maybe it would get me away from the science labs all together.

When that didn't happen, I realized that I was going to be in some trouble when our book said that we had to use microscopes and write papers on what we saw. Well, I had some usable vision at that time, but not enough to see through a microscope.

Luckily, they partnered me with another student who had sight, so he looked and I wrote. Things could have been a little easier if the USB Microscope had been around. I could see computer screens back then and could have helped him do some of the looking.

This computer microscope allows you to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary for hours of fun and learning. View specimens collected around the house, backyard, your desk, or the fridge. Look at the micro-printing on a dollar bill or examine the traces on your motherboard. This microscope provides you an easy way to zoom in on a wide variety of objects to satisfy your curiosity of the world around you. Ever wondered what lint looks like or the mold growing on your week-old bagels? Now you can find out.

Simple plug and play operation with included software that allows you to magnify objects and view them on your PC up to 200X and take snapshots and time-lapse movies. You can also manipulate images with drawing and painting tools.

Now, here's the cool thing for visually impaired folks. The QX5 microscope is detachable from the stand to allow you to get closer to large objects. What things could you look at with this? I know there's a few of you right now that are thinking of ways to use this that were never thought of by the manufacturer.

The USB Microscope QX5 has these great features:

  • Take snapshots, video, and time-lapse movies
  • 3 magnification levels - 10X, 60X, and 200X
  • Super-brite LED lighting for bright top and bottom illumination
  • Video playback at 15 frames/sec
  • Resolution of 640x480
  • Software works with Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP
  • Handheld mode allows for expanded viewing possibilities
  • Comes with: Microscope, USB cable, Stand, Specimen Jars, Sample Slide, Tweezers, Eye Dropper, Slide Clip, and Software CD-ROM

Teachers of the visually impaired take note. This thing could be perfect for your lab or computer workshop. Have you ever had students who simply couldn't see through a regular microscope? Use this in combination with Zoomtext or another screen magnification program to further increase the size of what the student can see. Imagine showing them a circuit board up close, much closer than you can get with a normal CCTV.

Teachers of sighted children could also use this in combination with a projector to show something to the entire class. The possibilities are endless with a little imagination.

Click this link to purchase the USB Microscope from Think Geek.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Change the Colors of Yahoo!

Here's another helpful tip for all our low vision readers who have a Yahoo! email account. When you log in to Yahoo!, do you notice the colors that come up? Did you even know there were colors there?

The colors represent a border around your information, but if you're going to have to look at them every day, why not have a color that you actually like and that can help you read the text you came there for?

To change the colors, click on the Options link at the top of the page. From there, choose the Colors link on the left hand side of the page. Now, this is where you get to choose your new color. There are several colors to choose from, including Classic Blue, Sand, Khaki, Ice Blue, Pink, Maroon, Peas/Carrots and even a Salmon Pink, among others.

If you're not sure what some of those choices even look like, click on the one you'd like to check out and a display of the color will be shown. Once you're done, click Save. You can then go back to your email home page and see the difference.

If you decide that you don't like the color you chose, go back and pick another color. The look of your Yahoo! email is all up to you now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How to Remain Standing While Riding a Bus

You're standing on a crowded bus, surrounded by folks who are waiting for the driver to call their stop. Then the bus stops suddenly. If you don't have a good hand hold, you go flying forward into other passengers and start a domino effect! Here's how to keep your footing during challenging times.

  1. Place your feet about a foot apart in the shape of a "T" after boarding the bus. One foot should be aligned with the direction of travel and the other should be placed behind it perpendicular to the direction of travel.
  2. When the bus stops, bend your rear leg and keep the front one straight to lean towards the back of the bus. As the bus comes to a stop, slowly straighten your legs to stand upright.
  3. When the bus starts again, bend your front leg to lean forward.
  4. Use the foot placed perpendicular to the direction of travel for lateral stability (i.e. during turns). Lean into the turns.

This technique works best for shuttle buses that make frequent, predictable stops. They also work great for subways and light rail.

Another approach is to stand diagonally in the bus. This gives stability for lateral as well as forward-backward motion!

This is not meant to be used as a substitute for holding onto the hand rails. The hand rails are there for your safety, use them if possible.

Tips for Cleaning the Stove

Cleaning the stove can be one of those chores that make a root canal seem more pleasant to endure. Still, it doesn't have to be that way if you don't want it to be. Ponder the following tips the next time you are faced with the formidable task of cleaning your stove.

  • The Stovetop: Most stovetops can be washed down with hot water and regular detergent. For those spills that have lived for a long time rent-free on your range surface or on those chrome and stainless steel parts, use a little baking soda and water. They will vacate the premises soon after you apply a smooth paste to the area and leave it on for five to ten minutes. Then wipe it off with a soft cloth and rinse with a solution of white vinegar mixed with water. Results are reminiscent of that old song, "Nowhere to run to, baby; nowhere to hide."

    For the cleanest oven top on your block, mix equal parts warm water and ammonia. Apply, wait thirty seconds and then rub as necessary. Rubbing alcohol also brings a beautiful shine to your stovetop. To clean and shine those messy chrome burner trim-rings, rub well with a paste of vinegar and cream of tartar.

  • Stove Burner Drip Pans: One quick way to clean burner drip pans and rings is to simply add them to your next dishwasher cycle. For stubborn stains on drip-trays, place an ammonia-soaked cloth in it and leave it overnight. Wash off well with dish soap and water.

  • Oven Spills: While this tip may seem like part of a family recipe of some sort, it isn't. When spills occur, sprinkle with a mixture of one part cinnamon and six parts table salt. Not only will it absorb the spill, but it will also help remove the burnt food odor. To dislodge baked on spills, apply a paste of baking soda and water. You may need to add a little elbow grease too.

  • The Oven Racks: Place your oven racks in a garbage bag and throw in an ammonia-soaked cloth. Seal the bag tightly and leave outside overnight. Wash down well with soap and water the next day.

  • Oven Trays: In the case of oven trays, an ounce of prevention is truly better than a pound of cure. Add a small amount of water to your trays while baking and broiling. This can save a lot of time later when it comes to cleaning them. If you are opposed to water for any reason, you can cover the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil as a spill-catching alternative. Oven trays as well as pans should be dried well after washing to prevent rusting. Place them in a warm oven so that they dry really well.

  • The Oven Window: For that brown-stained window that no cleanser known to man seems to alleviate, make a thick paste of baking soda and water. Coat the inside of the window well with the mixture and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes or until completely dry and then rinse with clean water.

Remember that only you can prevent a dirty stove. (I ought to know. I have one.) Happy Stove Cleaning.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Memoir of a Boy who is Blind

Adventures in Darkness: Memoirs of an Eleven-Year-Old Blind Boy, by Tom Sullivan, is a book that takes readers through the adventures of a "monumental" year in the life of Tom, a boy who has been blind since birth. Publishers describe the synopsis: "Tom lived in a challenging world of isolation and special treatment. But he was driven to break out and live as sighted people do." The 240-page book is available in hardcover and abridged audio on CD for a cost of $24.99. For more information, contact:

Thomas Nelson Publishers
P.O. Box 141000
Nashville, TN 37214
Phone: 800-251-4000
Click this link to purchase Adventures in Darkness: Memoirs of an Eleven-Year-Old Blind Boy, by Tom Sullivan from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Table Tennis and Air Hockey Combine to Create a Game for the Blind

Have you ever heard of a game called PowerShowdown? Well, join the majority of people in the United States. While invented in Canada and played rather extensively in other parts of the world, somehow it never managed to cross the borders into mainstream usage.

PowerShowdown, known internationally as Showdown, is a combination of table tennis and air hockey. Invented in the 1960s by Joe Lewis and Geraldine York, the game is specifically designed so individuals with visual impairments or blindness (VI or B) can play without sighted assistance. Additional rules have evolved from different parts of the world to make the game what it is today.

PowerShowdown has seen little use in the United States simply because most people are unaware of its existence. The tables are also expensive and difficult to obtain since they have to be ordered from Europe. Jim Mastro, Ph.D., has been working with a group at Bemidji State University in Minnesota to manufacture the tables in the United States. Considering the possibilities for social interaction as well as recreational or competitive sport, PowerShowdown is well worth discovering.

The game is inexpensive to start up, requires minimal maintenance, and can be played in a room the size of a classroom or meeting room. The only equipment needed is the specially designed table, two paddles, special ball into which metal bee bees have been inserted, and perhaps a glove for the batting hand. Sound produced by the bee bees rolling around inside the ball indicates the location of the ball during the play.

Showdown is easy to learn. The object of the game is to bat the ball off the side wall, along the table, under the centre screen, and into the opponent´s goal. the first player to reach eleven points, leading by two or more points, is the winner. Each player serves five times in a row. Player score two points for a goal and one point when their opponent hits the ball into the screen, hits the ball off the table, or touches the ball with anything but the bat.

The game of PowerShowdown has many benefits. Kinesthetic awareness, ear/hand coordination, and spatial awareness all come into play. The greatest benefit is the social aspect. It allows people with VI or B to compete and interact with other people. PowerShowdown could replace table tennis or air hockey in the family recreation room, providing an opportunity for participation with a competitive twist for entire families. It will help integrate individuals with VI or B into the general population.

The tables are $2,800.00 plus shipping and handling. Each is individually crafted and comes with two paddles and two balls. For additional information, click this link to contact Jim Mastro via email at
A text file of the official rules can be found at

The Incredible 2006 Annual Meeting Presentations of Tom Sullivan and Michael Hingson

Due to popular demand, and the gracious willingness of our presenters, the amazing Annual Meeting keynote presentations from October 12-14 2006 of Tom Sullivan and Michael Hingson are available through our website. Additionally, you may enjoy the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony of Anne Sullivan Macy and Arnall Patz.

Here's how to access the presentations:

the Keynote Presentations and Induction Ceremony recordings are located at:

To listen to podcasts of various Annual Meeting sessions, visit:

Monday, December 04, 2006

What is Hypoglycemic Unawareness?

Children with diabetes need to be encouraged to test their blood sugar at least four to five times a day, six to eight times would be better. This is especially true because some kids can develop a condition called hypoglycemic unawareness. It means pretty much what it sounds like, the state of being unaware that one's blood sugar is too low.

Typically, there are obvious physical symptoms of low blood sugar that a person experiences. Rapid heartbeat, perspiration, shaking, anxiety, hunger, confusion, and irritability are some of these signs.

A diabetic who doesn't "sense" that he or she is falling into the low blood sugar "danger zone" can literally become unconscious before being able to get help.

Tips for Parents

  • Get your child into a scheduled routine of testing blood sugar. Testing before eating and sleeping is a good plan. If you are firm in seeing that your child tests before all meals, snacks, and bedtime, eventually it will become a habit.

  • If your child gets a low blood sugar reading, especially if it is below 70, treat with a sugar substance. Afterwards, ask about what he was feeling while he was low. Write down the symptoms he describes every time he's low, and discuss them with your child to help him become more aware.

  • Make sure teachers and caregivers are aware of your child's particular symptoms of hypoglycemia. When in doubt, the teacher or caregiver should give the child juice, soda (not diet) or candy such as sweet tarts (that dissolve quickly).

  • Your son or daughter should keep juice boxes or emergency candy on hand for times when symptoms appear.

  • Set up rewards for your child when he consistently checks his blood sugar. Plan a movie or trip to someplace fun when she has been testing herself at least five times a day without fail for two weeks or a month.

Dr. Alfred T. Sapse Talks About Retinitis Pigmentosa

The audio interview conducted by TransWorldNews with Dr. Alfred T. Sapse is now available for listeners in the Audio Interviews section of TransWorldNews. Dr. Sapse's interview discusses Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and the treatment offered by StemCell Pharma, Inc.

Dr. Sapse also explains the causes that lead to RP that transcend genetic variables. Through the treatment offered by StemCell Pharma, Inc. individuals suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa can gain improved eyesight.

To listen to the audio interview with Dr. Alfred T. Sapse please go to:
To read more about Dr. Alfred T. Sapse and the treatments offered by StemCell Pharma, Inc. visit his TransWorldNews profile at:

Accessible Software at

By Chris Hofstader

One of the major aspects of the website is to encourage volunteerism among the community of people with disabilities. Another is to promote a community-based mentoring system in which people with disabilities who want to learn a new skill can match up with experts in the field and work on professional quality open source programs that people with disabilities can use without impediment.

The community of people with vision impairment, the group of people with disabilities that I know the best, has authors tremendous amount of energy. Some members of our community focus on applying this energy to constructive purposes; others, grow frustrated and spend a lot of energy yelling about problems but offering no solutions. I hope that our volunteerism project can help channel energy toward solutions rather than just criticism.

The site also hopes to serve as a one-stop shop for people with disabilities to find free, open source programs that they will enjoy using. In the beginning, we will be focusing on Windows and Windows Mobile software as that is what we know best. I expect that scripts for JAWS will dominate the early content on the site as all of the blind people working on this project use JAWS and that is the area with which we are most familiar. Some time in early 2007, when the site will have its Windows section in some reasonable order, we'll start adding software for the GNU/Linux platform and after that software for Macintosh and other platforms.

If you are interested in volunteering on this project in its early stages, we mostly need people to help us research and find as many free and open source projects pertinent to people with disabilities that run in the Windows environment. We need help finding all of these projects, categorizing them in writing a sentence or two describing them for people who visit the website. If you think you're interested in helping, visit the site and click the link to send a mail to

Blind Confidential will announce important changes to the website but it's probably best to check their from time to time to watch it grow.

Click this link to visit

Magnify Your Screen with Zoommy

Zoommy is a replacement for the MS Magnifier. The area of the screen is shown in the lens window with customizable magnification up to 20 times. A click on the Zoommy icon in the tray shows the lens, another click hides it.

A right click on the same icon opens a menu with parameters. Each of them can be changed with one more click. Zoommy is a magnifier tool for the visually impaired. Using Zoommy it is possible to adjust contrast, brightness, color mode: normal, inverse, black and white or gray gradations. The size of the lens is also customizable. Its unique mode can slow down the mouse when the specified magnification level is used.

This mode is automatically disabled when you hide the magnifier. The lens window shows the current magnification, proportionally magnified mouse pointer and its current coordinates.

The pointer looks in a special way that will help to precisely determine the actual position of the mouse pointer and also the color of the pixel the pointer is currently pointing to. The color of the pixel is in the RGB format (red, green and blue) and in the hexadecimal format.

The program can run in two modes: the lens follows the mouse pointer or is fixed in a certain position on the screen. It has a simple and comfortable interface. If you want it, Zoommy can be automatically launched at Windows startup.

Click this link to learn more about Zoommy from

A Blind Friendly Toaster

For those of you who burn your fingers trying to get an English Muffin from your toaster, we've come across a toaster that will give you an extra lift in the morning.

There are toasters available with a second lever that allows the item to be raised higher. One variety is the T-Fal Avante Deluxe Toaster With 2 Position Bread Lift. The two slice version runs around $39.00 and the four slice one around $59.00. They're available from the Penney's catalog and I'm sure from Wal-Mart and other sources.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How to RSVP

RSVP stands for the French phrase "répondez s'il vous plaît" and means "respond, please." It is used when someone issues you a social invitation and wants to be able to plan ahead. Although many people mistakenly believe that you need to reply only if you are coming, it actually means that your potential host wants to know, and soon, whether you intend to come or not. Here's how to give the inviter the proper courtesy when asked to RSVP.

  1. Check your calendar. See if you are free on the appointed date and time. If you previously accepted another invitation for that time, you will have to decline the new one.

  2. Do you want to attend this new event?

  3. Make up your mind by the date specified on the invitation; if a "reply by" date was not listed, reply within 24 hours of receiving the invitation. What if something better comes up later? That doesn't matter. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, but it is rude not to reply quickly to any invitation and show up as promised.

  4. Don't leave your potential hosts in suspense. If you want to hold your schedule open, the proper response to an invitation is, "Thank you for the invitation, but I'm afraid I will not be able to attend" -- say, "No thanks," instead of, "Please wait until I see what else comes along." True, you might not get a better offer after all, and if you turned down the first invitation, you could end up having nothing else to do that night, but you are abusing the graciousness of your hosts if you keep them on a string as your back-up plan.

  5. Reply in writing or in kind. To be most proper, one would reply in writing, by hand. But one may reply in the same format that one was invited; for example, an email invitation can be answered by email. For an RSVP to a wedding or other formal event, write the reply on a small plain piece of stationery, mirroring the layout of the initial invitation. The lines are centered. Write in the third person. "Ms. (Your name) accepts with pleasure / the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Jones for Tuesday, the thirty-first of October." If unable to attend, change "accepts with pleasure" to "regrets that she is unable to attend." You never need to give a reason for not attending. Just let the host know whether you're currently planning to be there or not.

  6. Communicate last-minute changes. What if the time comes and you can't attend after all? Maybe you're not feeling well, or there was some real emergency. Then, as soon as you know, you must get in touch with the host (by telephone is fine) to let them know you can't come, and apologize. Acceptance of a social invitation did not constitute a legal obligation; your RSVP just communicated your best intentions.

Because exasperated hosts were making a lot of follow-up phone calls to inconsiderate invitees, the "reply card" was invented and is often considered standard and even necessary. However, if a reply card is not included with a formal invitation, you still need to reply in writing and provide the stamp.

If you want to bring extra people, re-read the invitation. It may allow for your guests, in which case you can respond for your party. "Hi, Jane, yes, I would like to come, and my sister is also available; thanks for thinking of us." If not, you can call the hosts and weasel a bit: "I'd love to come to your party on the 31st, but my sister will be visiting me then." The host can either say, "OK, thanks for letting me know, see you next time," or, alternatively, "Well, why don't you just bring your sister along?" Never bring people who were not invited by name, even your own children, unless you clear it with the host first.

If you have special needs (e.g., you're a vegetarian), tell your hosts in advance. When you RSVP, mention that you are, say, a vegetarian, and offer to bring a dish that you can eat. The host may volunteer to make something themselves, and you can accept. But don't just show up and expect that there will be something for you to eat.

People you'd never think care about these things often do, from dates and grandmas to friends and employers. Depending on your crowd, you will get a reputation as either "rude" or "flaky" if you habitually fail to respond to invitations.

Etiquette Police: Free Online Etiquette Training Course

Etiquette 101 is a free online Etiquette Training Course to upgrade your social skills. This training program is designed to improve your etiquette IQ so you can put your best foot forward in varied business and social situations. In today's fast-paced environment, there is a need for an awareness of what is socially acceptable. When people come in contact with highly educated and cultivated men and women our opinions about them are mostly formed by their refined manners. This course is aimed to teach finer etiquette points through concise notes and quizzes. You will then be able to measure this added knowledge by taking an online Final Exam.

An Online Certificate will be awarded after you've passed your Final Exam. This Certificate will give you the confidence and satisfaction to be a sophisticated member of the Etiquette Police alumni.

The Etiquette 101 Certificate Course is divided into the following units.

  1. Dine like a Diplomat: Covers the Dining and Table Manners
  2. Business Etiquette: For Business and Corporate Situations
  3. Cultural Notes: Provides info on Global Cultural Differences
  4. Wedding Etiquette: For Dating and Wedding Situations
  5. Potpourri: Covers Flag, Funeral, Netiquette etc.

The only pre-requisite for taking this training course is a desire to improve your social grace. Once you've registered with the Etiquette Police, you can login anytime at your convenience. This course can be completed at your own pace. You may complete this course in less than a day, or as long as it takes. The idea is to make sure you have grasped all the information in an effective way. After completing the five units, you can take the Final Exam to evaluate yourself on the Etiquette 101 course material.

You will receive a certificate in your email after passing the Final Exam. This certificate will testify that you have successfully completed Etiquette 101 training material. You can then be a proud graduate of the Etiquette Police Certification Program.

Click this link to visit to get started.

How to Seat Dinner Guests

When you decide to have a dinner party, there are many things that you'll need to consider besides the menu. An important consideration is where the guests should be seated, as this could determine whether or not your guests enjoy themselves or network successfully (depending on what the aim of the dinner event is). This article provides some tips to guide your decision.

  1. Decide on the formality of your occasion. Are you having business associates over or friends? Relatives from out of state or your immediate family? The relationship that you have with the people attending your event will determine the formality. As a general guide, a silver service sit-down event should be reserved for professional or very special occasions; a buffet is far more informal and you are less able to control the seating arrangements.

  2. Seat people who have common interests together. This is the most helpful starting point. Consider the following:

    • Do they have a need to discuss business together?
    • Do they have hobbies or interests in common?
    • Do they have professions in common?
    • Do they have marital/single status in common? (Perhaps you're into matchmaking, although some would be irritated by your attempt if they were to figure it out)
    • Do they like one another? Be careful of seating people you know have an animosity towards one another unless you want a dampener on the occasion.

  3. Pair people together. Be creative in your pairings. Sometimes it is customary to pair male/females but this can be stifling to the conversation or uncomfortable for some people. If you know someone to be shy, try to pair them with a caring extrovert. If you think two people who would normally not cross paths will end up having a good yarn, then try it. Being the host calls for exercising some people skills in your choices, as well as during the occasion.

  4. Seat guests of honour in order. If you have a guest of honour, for example, a boss, an elderly relative, a visiting superstar (you should be so lucky), there are etiquette rules as to their seating. A female guest of honour usually sits to the right of the host. A male guest of honour usually sits to the left of the hostess.

  5. Try opposite ends of the table for the hosts and/or the guests of honour. With two hosts, you should consider sitting yourselves at opposite ends of the table so that you are "sharing yourselves around" your guests. Alternatively, you could seat the guest of honour at the opposite end of the host, for a female guest of honour, seat her opposite the female host and for a male guest of honour, seat him opposite the male host. The remaining host can sit amidst the rest of the group or alongside the guest of honour. Remember, the hosts should try to remain apart as it is the hosts' duty to make sure the guests are happy.

  6. Have a seating list for large dinner parties. If your dinner party is so large that it encompasses a group of tables, it is helpful to have a seating list at the entrance to the room. Or, personalise it and tell each guest/couple where their table is. That is much friendlier than making them line up like they're at a school cafeteria.

  7. Be a good host. Enjoy yourself but make sure the guests are having fun, too. Make sure that anyone with a disability is seated on a comfortable enough chair; offer to change it or add a cushion etc., if they appear uncomfortable. Let people know quietly where the bathrooms are located, or assist by making it clear with a discreet sign. If a guest looks put out at where you've seated them, do some discreet legwork and re-seat them as quickly as possible; make an excuse like, "Oops, I meant to put you over there." Don't do this if it makes the situation too obvious or you really can't work out a better place for Mr. Snotty to sit.

The number one rule is that you are the host and it's the host's duty to ensure the happiness and comfort of the guests throughout the event. This means foregoing things for yourself if necessary (like less food), keeping an eye on guests' comfort levels and providing swift attention to any problems that might arise.

Don't get too hung up on seating etiquette rules. Many of the rules were established in the courts of kings and queens and were perpetuated by wealthy people for generations to follow. With the rise of the middle class and nowadays much more liberally-minded younger generations, the do's and don'ts are less concerning. This is a very general and liberal guide. It will apply in many middle class, anglophone situations. However, there will be stricter interpretations depending on culture, region, country, religious beliefs etc. that you will likely be aware of if this pertains to you.

How you seat your guests from the start can assist in making the occasion more successful, so put some thoughtful effort into this decision.

Accessible Paint Calculator

When my wife and I moved into our new home, we wanted to paint the walls before moving in the furniture. My wife has some vision, so she measured the rooms and we went to our local hardware store to purchase the paint. We knew what color we wanted, but we had no idea how much paint it would take to paint our house.

While searching the net, I found this paint calculator. I wasn't looking for a paint calculator at the time, but I thought there may be someone out there who is getting ready to move and may have use for it, so here's how it works.

You first take the measurements of the room you want to paint. This means the length, width and height of the walls, as well as, how many doors and windows there are with their measurements too. Then you put that information into the calculator along with how many square feet a gallon of the paint you want to use covers (this information is usually provided on the can). Then click Calculate.

You'll then find out how many gallons you need in the totals area. (Visually impaired folks will notice it is darker gray around this area to attract your eye to the total!) They give you the disclaimer that you should do your own measurements and check with a professional, because this is just a rough measurement. It will help you get an idea of how much money it will cost to get the job done.

Click this link to use the Paint Calculator.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Letter Case Mania in MS-Word

Ever find that you're constantly trying to change the capitalization of words or sentences? What do you do?

Maybe you highlight the word or phrase and retype it.

Maybe you're the type who only replaces the individual letters that need to be changed. What a headache!

Are you the person who found the Change Case feature on the Format menu? You know, where you get the choices of sentence case, all lowercase letters, all uppercase letters, all title case letters or to toggle all letters between upper and lowercase. There's a faster way than this.

Let's start with the most versatile choice.

Once you highlight the text to change, use Shift + F3. You'll scroll between sentence case letters, all lowercase letters and all uppercase letters.

But what if you're tired of rotating through the choices and just want to jump straight to UPPERCASE?

You could use the Format menu, Change Case choice, but there's a faster way, Control+Shift+A.

  • To change a single word, simply put the cursor on the word and hit Control+Shift+A.
  • Changing multiple words can be done by highlighting them before you use Control+Shift+A.

In either case, to toggle the text back to its original form, use Control+Shift+A again.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Accessible City Information

This site is really neat. Not only can you find out information about the city you live in, but if you are moving, you can check out your new hometown too!

There are a couple of ways to navigate. You can check out the links: Top 100 Lists where you can find lists of the top 100 cities and pertinent information like the highest income, the least crime, the newest houses, the most females, the shortest commute, the best educated residents, etc. You can also use the search engine to look up your current city.

So, go ahead and check out your city or your future city, for that matter by clicking this link:

A Different Word in Word

Have you ever listened to a document and found a word that just doesn't seem to fit what you're trying to say? You listen to it over and over again, trying to come up with a replacement word but nothing comes to you.

It's at this moment that you need Word's thesaurus. The only question now is: where is it?

If you're inclined to use menus, you'll find it buried in the Tools menu, Language submenu.

If you're more in tune with keyboard shortcuts, you simply need to remember Shift + F7.

Highlight the word you need to replace (if you don't highlight it, Word will automatically select the word to the left of the cursor) and hit Shift + F7.

On the left, the selected word is listed along with meanings. On the right, there are suggested synonyms. (Antonyms may also be listed and will be noted as such). Screen reader users will find a list of available words and can tab through the various options.

Find a word that suits your needs, select it and click Replace. Screen reader users will arrow through the list of words and press enter or tab to the replace button and press enter.

Poof! A different word and MS-Word did all the work!

Nickelodeon Dora Talking iCrayons

Talking crayons have been developed to help toddlers learn colours and how to spell. They talk through a battery-operated plastic base in which they are inserted. The base reads the colour of the crayon and relates the information to the child. Blind and visually impaired children have found another use for the talking crayons.

They're called Dora i-crayons (i' for interactive, which is becoming a norm with many of today's children's toys and learning methods). They give blind or visually impaired children the ability to colour without having to ask anyone for help.

Product Features

  • Dora introduces kids to colors and beginning spelling
  • Includes 6 custom crayons, 1 electronic crayon topper and 6 pages to color
  • Set speaks in both English and Spanish
  • Drawing has never been so divertido!
  • For ages 3 years and up

Click this link to purchase the Nickelodeon Dora Talking I-Crayons from

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snapalarm Smoke Detector

While the Snapalarm doesn't improve on the functionality of smoke detectors, it does improve on the form. Normally to install a smoke detector, you need to first drill a hole into the wall or ceiling and then attach the unit with a couple of screws. As a result most people only have a single smoke detector installed in their home which can be dangerous depending on how big your place is and where the device is installed.

The Snapalarm is designed to be easier to install than a standard smoke detector. The device opens like a clamshell allowing it to be fastened to the cord or chain of a hanging pendant lamp which is ideal given the proximity of these lights to the ceiling. And as an added safety feature the halves of the alarm can't be closed if a working battery has not been installed.

Click this link to learn more about the Snapalarm from their website:

Search the Zoo

We're not talking about a trip to your local zoo, but a great search engine for the net called This is a kid-friendly search engine that should be bookmarked in every parent/school's Web browser. It's custom made just for kids. When you use, it brings you search results from different search engines like Yahoo!, Google, Wikipedia, etc. The good thing is that it censors the search results before they are displayed on your computer screen, which stops the chances of anything unsuitable being presented. There is also a News tab, which brings all the latest news from ABC, FOX and Yahoo! Although you can customize any of the individual search engines to censor the content and the links in search results, one big advantage with is that it brings you the collective results from most of the more prominent search engines.

I tested the site by searching for different terms and found that when encounters something that might be offensive, it simply displays a warning telling you that it cannot display the search results related to that particular search. It really worked well and it's great with screen readers and screen magnification programs.

Click this link to search the net with

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fiber Optic Flashlight Adapter

This flexible fiber optic wand provides pinpoint illumination when used with an AA-sized mini-flashlight (like the Mini Maglite). Bend and direct the light of your flashlight simply by flexing the non-conductive fiber optic tube. Requires AA-sized mini flashlight, not included.

This tool is nothing more than a short fiber optic wire attached to a rubber hood, which goes on the end of a Maglite or equivalent. It completely gets rid of the problem of aiming a flashlight beam into a small hole. Just insert the end of the adapter and voila, the inside is lit up and you don't have to contend with all the glare from the light hitting the edges of the hole. Comes in 7" and 20" versions.

Click this link to purchase the Fiber Optic Adapter from X-Treme

Fortune Cookies in Braille

I don't know what it is about me and those little cookies. I'm afraid to have someone read one to me. "Beware of buses", or "Don't cross any busy streets" seem to come up for me all the time! Maybe I should start calling them unfortunate cookies.

Maybe its the person doing the reading that's the problem? I don't know. It doesn't matter because you'll never find fortune cookies in braille right? Never say never my friends.

The Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company, a student-operated business at the California School for the Blind specializes in braille and large print fortune cookies. The company offers customized fortunes to fit all types of events, including birthdays, weddings, or conventions. There are even chocolate-dipped fortune cookies for the chocolate lovers among us!

The cookies range from $1.00 for three small Braille cookies to $13.00 for one giant, customized, chocolate-dipped fortune cookie. You can place your order by emailing Lucky Touch Advisor Judith Lesner at or by phone at 510-794-3800 ext. 300. Test your luck and order some braille fortune cookies today!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

American Science & Surplus

This website is a tinkerer's delight. One legendary source of cheap parts, weird stuff, cheap knockoffs, and plain junk is American Science & Surplus. They sell "closeouts, inventory overruns, mis-manufactures, and items whose time has not come. When a surplus item is gone, it is gone." It's the ultimate hacker's mail-order junk store.

They don't take themselves too seriously, either, often belittling the scrap they are selling. The items are illustrated with crude sketches on yellow newsprint paper in their crowded 95-page paper catalog. It's a cornucopia of irresistible bargains. Science fair motors! Chemistry kits! Craft tools. I dare you to open it without finding something you have to have. In addition to the doodles, you can click to see a photo of an item as well.) While funny, their descriptions are always honest, and the stuff delivered will be entirely useable. More so than most catalogs, the bulk of the items listed are inspirational: " Oh, I could do that!" Prices are, as they say, incredible.

Click this link to visit American Science & Surplus:

How to Make a Root Beer Float

Nothing feels more refreshing, than a tall glass of ice cold root beer, topped with a large scoop of ice cream sitting atop the glass, and served with a straw and spoon. It is delicious, nutritious (OK, maybe not nutritious) and is known as a Root beer Float! Follow these steps and you'll have a great treat for any occasion.

  1. Fill each glass 3/4 full with root beer. Set the glass on small plates so you can catch the overflow from the fizz.
  2. Slowly add one scoop of vanilla ice cream into each glass. Add a little more root beer on top of the ice cream. This will turn to foam.
  3. The glass will begin to overflow as the ice cream begins to float. Keep the foam to a minimum by pouring the root beer first, stirring and waiting for the bubbles to subside before adding the ice cream.
  4. Eat slowly, starting with the cold frozen foam on top, scooping ice cream and root beer together with your spoon.
  5. Use the straw to sip the remainder of creamy carmel colored root beer left in the glass.

You can use cola or cream soda instead of root beer. This is called a Coke float or a black cow. Try using Orange, Grape, or Strawberry soda for a different twist on the float.

Don't put the ice cream in the glass first and pour the carbonated root beer on top of it. This will give you all foam and no root beer.

My Grocery Deals is a free service that allows consumers to go online, do their grocery pre shopping based on advertised grocery flyer specials, look at nutritional information, create their shopping list and then head out to their selected store(s) with list in hand.

The site allows members to search through local grocery weekly ads to find deals and sales. Then you can customize your very own price optimized shopping list. It is really pretty handy as it shows the original price, with what the sale price is, and is very easy when working with coupons to see what you have and what you will save. It does the work for you. After you've made your shopping list, which can be categorized by store, etc. you can save your list and print it or send it via email, which is another really handy feature.

Another feature I found quite interesting and probably quite handy for some, is that there is an allergy alert system. If someone you shop for in your household has a food allergy of some type, it can be entered in your profile and if anything you have checked to purchase contains that item, it will be flagged.

In addition to offering the sales ad browsing feature, the shopping list creator, the allergy flagger and several other options, also has a coupon printer. The software download is spam free, downloads quickly and there are literally tons of coupons to choose from. Check mark what you want, and print them out. Seems easy enough!

Click this link to visit

NOTE: Sections of this site may not be compatible with screen reading programs like JAWS for Windows and Window Eyes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ten Tips for Family and Friends of People with Vision Loss

Guest Blogger, Priscilla Rogers, Ph.D. posted the following tips on the American Foundation for the Blind's Blog.

Here are ten tips for family and friends of people with vision loss. Please share others that come to mind:

  1. Learn all you can about your relative's vision loss; different types of eye conditions affect vision in varying ways. For example, some people can see to get around but not see people's faces. Others lose their side vision but have some central vision.

  2. Learn about resources, techniques and products that can help your relative continue to carry out everyday tasks and enjoyable activities independently.

  3. Talk directly to the person with vision loss instead of "around" him or her.

  4. Don't walk away without telling the person you are leaving.

  5. Communicate verbally instead of through gestures that cannot be seen.

  6. Don't move things around in the persons' home without asking.

  7. Give clear and specific directions. Remember the person may not be able to see where you are pointing.

  8. Identify yourself to the person. He or she may not be able to see your face and may not recognize your voice. Don't embarrass your family member of friend by making him guess who you are.

  9. Ask first before helping. Expect that your relative will want to do as much as he or she can do independently.

  10. Ask your relative to continue to help you as he or she always has-with babysitting, pet sitting, taxes, or a good listening ear. We all like to feel needed and having vision problems does not make a person any less capable of providing help and support.

Decorate Your Walls with Braille

I've seen some cool ways to promote the use of braille. There are candy bars with braille, T-shirts, bracelets, necklaces and now wall tyles.

Inhabit's Embossed Wall Flats are designed to expand in any direction. With peel-and-stick adhesive tabs and an automatic pattern repeat these wall tiles are simple, modern, versatile and goof-proof. You can cover a existing wall, help disguise a not-so-smooth wall or add a modern pattern to any room setting.

Customize them by rotating every other tile or row, mix-and-match patterns or paint them to coordinate with your decor. The rule is there are no rules and the important thing is to have fun with it. It¹s low stress, low commitment and a big payoff in the way these tiles will impact a space.

Only for use indoors. Sorry but they are made of paper. Wall Flats can be used to do an entire room, one wall or to create free-standing-art pieces. Dimensions: 18"x18" panels Content: 10 panels per box Coverage: 22.5 square feet Color: Off-white paintable surface Material: Molded Bamboo Paper Pulp with Peel-&-Stick adhesive tabs.

Click this link to purchase the BRA-Braille wall tyles from Inhabit.

The Wrapmaster

Do you use a lot of aluminum foil or plastic wrap in your kitchen? Do you have a hard time cutting off the right amount for the task at hand? If so, it's time for you to be come a Wrapmaster!

The WrapMaster is an aluminum foil and plastic wrap dispenser. You load the foil or wrap, pull out the desired amount, and press down on the lid. The lid has blades that are specially designed to cut either foil or plastic wrap. It holds rolls up to 200 sq. ft.

I liked the idea of this contraption because my aluminum foil and plastic wrap boxes are always getting mangled in my drawer and I have difficulty cutting off pieces of plastic wrap without getting it tangled up. The foil and wrap is relatively easy to load--although it is a three step process, which could be a problem if you are lazy (like me). Once loaded, it's easy to pull out the desired amount of foil and wrap, and the blade will cut very clean and neat. It'll be much easier than taking foil or wrap from the box. My only complaint is that the WrapMasters are a little big. They are 3.75" wide x 3.5" high x 14.5" long, which is too big to fit in most drawers. You may have to do some rearranging in order to use them.

Click this link to visit the WrapMaster USA website.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tips for the Dip

Good manners are not something we are born with: they evolve with our social and cultural growth and help us emerge as thoughtful, caring humans.

Dipping habits are important because they can be very annoying and unconsciously reflect one's true lack of manners. In an old but tried and true study conducted by Land O' Lakes, guests were asked what they hated most about other people's dipping habits. The survey revealed the following in order of annoyance:

  1. Double dipping: This involves scooping from the community bowl, taking a bit and then re-dipping.
  2. Tasting the dip with a finger: Self-explanatory and gross!
  3. Digging a submerged chip out of the bowl by hand: This is a party not a hunt for buried treasure!
  4. Eating straight out of the communal dip bowl: Why not just lick up all the dip when everyone is looking? You will turn everyone off instantly!
  5. Sticking foods into someone else's dip: Who invited this person anyway?

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Blind Geek Zone

Welcome to Rick Harmon's Blind Geek Zone

The zone contains lots of tech goodies for all you blind geeks out there. There are audio podcasts to show you how to use many popular programs with JAWS as well as audio demonstrations of tech gadgets of all kinds. There are links to mailing lists and websites to places of interest to blind geeks everywhere. Even if you're not a geek come on in and have a look. I'm sure you'll find something of interest.

Click this link to visit

Friday, November 10, 2006

Grant for Disabled farmers

AgrAbility Unlimited, a joint program of U of I Extension and Easter Seals offers Assistive Technology, the equipment that might be additional handholds and steps to access the cab of a tractor or combine, or a specialized utility vehicle for someone with limited mobility or helping make the farm office easier to access and use.

To qualify for assistance, applicants must be in production agriculture, have a significant disability that limits farming activities, be able to contribute financially to the purchase of the items needed, and have a no-cost on-site assessment done by AgrAbility staff. The dollar amount available will vary on a case-by-case basis. Larger amounts may be available if the circumstances warrant the additional dollars.

These dollars are very limited.

Awards will be on a cost sharing basis and available to those who do not qualify for full assistance from Division of Rehab Services.

For more information about AgrAbility Unlimited, or to schedule an assessment, call Mike Brokaw, AgrAbility Unlimited Program Manager, at 800 -500-7325 ext. 126 or by email at

Finding Stuff with Nemo

Travel with ease! The pocket-sized Nemo is lightweight and affordable. Look-up phone numbers in seconds and perform simple household tasks with ease. Incorporating a 4" viewing screen with digital magnification - this ultra portable device can go anywhere.

Key features:

  • 4" Viewing Screen
  • Anti-Glare LCD Screen
  • Lightweight & Compact
  • 4.5 to 9x Magnification
  • Brightest Image in its class
  • Three step digital magnification
  • 6 viewing modes (including 2 color select)
  • Freeze Frame control takes a temporary picture
  • Tactile Controls allow for ease of use
  • Three hour battery life
  • Two year warranty
  • 30-day money back guarantee

For more information,or to schedule a free product demonstration please contact:

Enhanced Vision Headquarters
5882 Machine Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
Toll Free: (888)811-3161
Phone: 714-374-1829
Fax: 714-374-1821888-811-3161, or fax at 1-714-374-1821, or

Healthy Fridge

One of the big health concerns facing people right now is heart disease. This site is devoted to providing heart healthy tips for you and your family. Navigation is pretty simple here. There are buttons near the top of the page that break the site down into four sections. Under those, there are two more links: What's New and Search.

The Healthy Fridge: Here you will find 10 tips to a heart healthy refrigerator, the FAQs, Meet the Doctor and "Open the Door to a Healthy Heart." The tips have great suggestions for organizing your fridge so you eat better and the FAQs have some great answers to our burning questions.

Good Nutrition: Here you have a quiz that tests your knowledge of Saturated Fat, you can find Heart Healthy recipes for both kids and adults, you can even figure out what you should eat, check out the section on women's eating habits and so much more. This section is all about good nutrition and how you can get to where you do have good nutrition, if you don't already.

Heart of the Matter: This is where you can learn all you need to know about heart disease. This section talks about cholesterol and how to count it. It also has a calculator for your risk of heart disease. You need to know your Total cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol and Systolic Blood Pressure to use it. Don't you deserve to know the facts about heart disease?

Just for Kids: Recent studies show that heart disease can be traced back to childhood, so it's important to make sure your kids learn to eat heart smart. Here they can check out recipes, take a quiz, play with a word search and learn the facts about children and heart disease.

This is a great site for the whole family. It teaches us all about heart disease and healthy eating. It even has great tips on how to better shop for, plan for and make heart healthy meals.

Click this link to visit

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pointer Control from the Keyboard

What would you do if your mouse happens to stop working for a day or two, you would have a really tough time trying to get your work done on your computer wouldn't you? You would have to spend most of your time working with your keyboard, trying to remember all the shortcut keys and the combination keys to use and all of this would have to be done from your memory. How about something a bit better?

Windows has a facility where you can use a keyboard to control the mouse pointer in the absence of a mouse. Note that this trick will not work if a screen reader or screen magnification program is running because these programs remap the keyboard.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Select the Accessibility option.
  3. From the dialogue box, click on the Mouse tab.
  4. Tick the checkbox of Use Mouse Key.
  5. Click OK to close the Accessibility Options window.

Note: You can also press Left Alt key + Left Shift Key + Num Lock together to open the MouseKeys dialogue box. Then press Enter to turn MouseKeys ON. Press Cancel to turn MouseKeys OFF.

You can use the numeric pad (the number pad on the right hand side of your keyboard) as MouseKeys, but only if the Num Lock is ON.

On the numeric keypad, use the following keys to control the mouse pointer:

  • 2, 4, 6 and 8 to move the cursor on the screen toward Down, Left, Right and Up.
  • To perform a left single click, press 5.
  • To perform a right single click, press ^DDS (minus).
  • To perform a left double click, press + (plus).

To increase the speed of the pointer movement, double click the mouse icon on the taskbar and select the Settings button from the dialogue box. Now you can increase the speed of the pointer by selecting the Pointer Speed option.

Place a check in the box that says, "Hold down Ctrl to speed up and Shift to slow down." Now, if you press the Ctrl key while holding the arrow key, the pointer speed will increase and if you hold the Shift key while holding the arrow key, the pointer speed will decrease.

Note: If you want to use the numbers from the numeric keypad while using the MouseKeys, select the OFF radio button from Use MouseKeys when Num Lock is the option. If you select ON again, the numeric keypad will be used as MouseKeys.

So, from now on, even if your mouse goes bad, you still have options to move the cursor!

The Orchestra: a User's Manual

The Philharmonia orchestra offers this introduction to the orchestra, orchestration, composition, and instruments, using text, quicktime videos of Philharmonia musicians, audio clips, and "illustrative musical examples." Composition students will find this especially valuable.

Click this link to begin your exploration of an orchestra.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Printing Folders in Windows

I had written a post on this before and found it to be too unreliable to leave in the database. I found two programs that do the same thing and are much simpler to install.

When you browse a folder in windows explorer, you sometimes would like to print the content of that folder. Unfortunately there is no option to print the content of a folder from Windows Explorer.

You can add your own print folder (or list the folder content to a text file) by using the following programs.

  • Dirlist adds an option to your send to menu that will create a file of the directory listing of all the file names in that folder. Simply right-click any folder you wish to save/print.

    Click this link to download DirList.

  • Run print folder from your programs menu or choose print folder from the context menu of a folder to create a file of the directory listing.

    Click this link to download Print Folder.

Notepad: The Accessible Way to Organize

Do you use Notepad? Do you like to make

lists for the things you need to get done throughout the day? Then this is the tip for you!

Did you know that you can use the Notepad application from Windows to write down any information you need to remember on a day to day basis? You know, you can use it to record any appointments you have or you can even use it to make an accessible grocery list. The options are endless. Here's how it's done:

  1. Open Notepad by clicking Start, All Programs, Accessories, Notepad.
  2. Type .LOG (in all caps) as the first line of the file, followed by a carriage return (Enter). Then save this file and close it. (You could save it as example.txt, for instance).
  3. Navigate to where you saved the file and double click it. You may notice that Notepad appends the current date and time (the system date and time) to the end of the file and places the cursor on the line after it. With the date and time in place, you will never forget to do something on a certain day. How's that for a reminder?!
  4. Go ahead and type your notes. When you're finished, save the file again and close it.

Each time you open the file, Notepad will repeat the process. So, each time, the new date and time will show up at the end of the file and it will place the cursor below it. You can then just type what you need to and save it all over again. It's a great way to have an accessible reminder right on your desktop!

Some readers have emailed me saying that this tip doesn't work. Please note that in step 2, you must have a period before the word log to insert the date and time.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Turn Off Website Animation

I think we've all run into this at one time or another. You go to one of your favorite websites and each time you get more and more frustrated with the animation it has on the pages. Sometimes it's something scrolling across your screen and other times, it might be a flashing image. Whatever it is, it can cause lots of problems for your screen reader or screen magnification program. Would you like to turn those annoying animations off? Here's how using Internet Explorer.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools, Internet Options. Use the keyboard command Alt+T and arrow down to Internet Options if using a screen reader.

  2. Click on the Advanced tab. If using a screen reader, use Control+Tab to navigate through the tabs until you get to Advanced.

  3. Scroll or tab down until you see the Multimedia section. Disable the option that says "Play animations in Web pages" by unchecking the box.

  4. Click OK when you're done.

From now on, you will see the images from the animations, but they will be still. They won't move around any longer. No more distraction here!

Shop for Assistive Technology Online with MSN

Empower Technologies has created an Assistive Technologies (AT) comparison shopping experience via a number of Microsoft Web sites, including MSN Shopping and Windows Live Shopping.

The arrival of this new shopping service coincides with a growing audience for Assistive Technology products, such as those who have physical or cognitive difficulties, disabilities, and the rapidly growing baby-boomer population who may need AT products as they grow older and live longer.

The AT product catalogs can be accessed directly through the following links:

MSN Shopping:

Windows Live Shopping:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Napkin Folding 101

Wouldn't it be cool if tonight, you could surprise your dinner partner by making fancy folded napkins? I found a site that will tell you exactly how to make all kinds of designs. I didn't know you could fold napkins in so many different ways. Check out this list:

  • bird
  • goblet
  • cardinal
  • arum
  • clown
  • fan
  • rose
  • crown
  • pyramid
  • rosebud
  • bishop

Click this link to learn how to fold these styles, and more by visiting the Napkin Folding 101 website:

Click this link for another site with PDF instructions on folding napkins and towels.

Mildew in Your Towels? What About Stinky Dishcloths?

Towels and other linens can be a haven for bacteria and mildew, even when fresh from the washing machine. The following tips will help you to prevent unwanted spores in your laundry.

  1. Remove towels and other linens from the washing machine as soon as possible. Allowing laundry to sit for even short periods of time in warm or humid conditions can quickly lead to mildew. While you might not see or even smell it, mildew spores can grow rapidly.

  2. If it has been several hours since the washer stopped, re-wash the load. Even if it doesn't have a noticeable odor, mildew could be lurking. At the very least, run the rinse cycle again.

  3. When drying towels, use the highest setting on your dryer and make sure to dry towels thoroughly. Some people take them out when they are still a little damp, in order to conserve energy. If you do this, towels should be hung until completely dry, so moisture isn't trapped where it can lead to mildew and other bacteria growth. Folding towels while even a little damp, will keep in moisture.

  4. Bath towels, dishtowels, washcloths, and dishcloths, harbor lots of germs. Wash them in hot water at least occasionally or if they are heavily soiled. Add bleach where possible. If you have colored towels and can't use bleach, add a bit of fabric safe disinfectant to each load.

  5. You may not think of your washer as "dirty" since water and detergent are cycling through it. However, most laundry detergents are not antibacterial and water temperatures don't tend to be high enough to kill all contaminations. Wash a load using disinfectant or bleach after a few loads to keep your washing machine sanitary.

Keeping your dishcloth clean, fresh and sanitized makes your whole kitchen smell a lot nicer. (Isn't the smell of a musty dishcloth just AWFUL?) Here are two of my favorite ways to keep the dishcloths clean:

  • Just clean the dishcloth in the dishwasher! All I do is leverage a bowl or cup against the dishcloth on the top shelf of the dishwasher and let it run as usual. Because the dishwasher gets so incredibly hot, it will completely clean and sanitize your kitchen cloth.
  • A few people have told me to try cleaning the dishcloth in the microwave. Apparently you can put a thoroughly moistened dishcloth right into the microwave and heat on high for about 30 seconds or so. Be careful not to burn yourself when you take the dish cloth out again! How about killing two cleaning chores with one stone? Try popping the above mentioned dishcloth in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, and then just let it sit in there for about ten minutes. Your dishcloth will get cleaned AND all of the accumulated steam inside the microwave will make it easy to clean, just wipe that dishcloth around the interior of the microwave and you've got a gorgeous, lovely, clean microwave.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Retrieve Lost Data with Copy Cat

Remember when we used to save our documents to 3.5 floppy disks? It wasn't that long ago! I found one of my old floppy disks the other day and wanted to copy the files from it. It was very annoying to discover that the disk was damaged and Windows couldn't copy some of the files. I used Copy Cat to copy the disk and was able to retrieve the data perfectly.

Copy Cat will not only copy the bytes of a disk that can be read, it will also attempt to read the bytes that have been damaged or that are not normally picked up through the standard Windows copy operation.

Copy Cat is great for copying a CD or DVD that has been scratched,when you want to copy data from an area of a hard drive that is partially damaged or when you want to copy data from a floppy that is currently not being copied correctly by windows.

Click this link to download Copy Cat from

Mp3 Knife

Have you ever wanted to save a portion of a podcast? Maybe they talked about a great new website that you wanted to check out and you wanted to save that information for later?

Mp3 Knife is a simple tool for extracting mp3 clips from large Mp3s. The extracted clips will be stored in mp3 format. This is the simplest and fastest tool in its category which has the ability to extract long mp3 clips in seconds. Its so simple, only three steps to get the clips: select start, select end and save.

Click this link to download MP3 Knife:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute is pleased to announce the launch of its National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS) Web Portal (, a clearinghouse of information and resources related to blind youth and their participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The NCBYS Web Portal, funded under a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), provides easy, centralized access for teachers, students, parents, and others to gain the knowledge necessary to make STEM fields accessible to blind youth. Users can not only find high tech solutions but also low tech, simple tools and strategies to teach and learn STEM subjects.

This portal also provides users with a career section where they can read biographies and hear interviews of blind scientists and engineers, including Abraham Nemeth, developer of the Nemeth Code. Users can also explore career opportunities and science programs available to blind students, such as the EXcellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership internship program and the NFB Youth Slam.

Click this link to visit the National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Organizing Books by Color

Organizing books in a personal library can be a challenge, especially if you are visually impaired. Finding a science fiction book by removing each book to read the larger print on the cover is not practical. Design Observer recently blogged about a slightly unconventional way of Organizing Our Books by Color instead of by author, title, or subject. According to the article, arranging books by color is not only "cool to look at", but some even argue that it helps "discover new and unexpected relationships between books" - suggesting that certain color books are associated with certain subjects or moods.

I can see this working organizationally for a visually impaired person's small library, because for books we are very familiar with, we often recognize them by the color of the cover. Sorting your books by color gives you a reference point for where to look on the shelf.

True or False in Braille

Message: I'm looking for a braille math indicator for "is the equation true or false" In print the indicator is a question mark over an equal sign. Is there a braille symbol for this math expression? Thank you.
Location: CT

Dear Carol,

You will find the sign you are looking for on page 136 of the print edition of the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Scientific Notation. It is under comparrison signs. The entire sign is this:

dot 5, dots 4-6, 1-3, 1-2-6, 4-5-6, 2-3-6, 1-2-4-5-6.

I hope this helps.

Fred Gissoni

Quit drinking my drink

As a parent, I know the aggrivation of the kids getting out cup after cup, not keeping up with it, and before too long, you have no idea which cup belongs to which child. This is especially annoying when you are a blind parent and can not rely on colors to differenciate the cups.

Here's a product that can help with this and a host of other labeling issues in the kitchen.

Bumpy Name labels are elastic rubber "orbit" labels that come in sizes to fit a variety of containers.

They're dishwasher-safe and can be made in print or Braille, and you can order custom labels with a second line of information, such as "No Dairy," or the child's phone number. They are available at in either a package of three stock names or a package of four custom labels. Get a bunch of these and just go crazy labeling stuff!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

StrapTrap traps runaway bra straps

As a guy, I'm glad I don't have to mess around with a bra each morning. I don't see how you gals do it! How uncomfortable it must be.

Having a wife, and her having friends, I have come to understand two basic problems when wearing a bra.

  • You can't keep the straps up on your sholders.
  • The straps can be easily seen when wearing a top with a large neckline.

I know some women take safety pins and pinned the straps to the inside of their top, but that would seem to be a time-consuming project. To me, it would be hard to place the pins in just the right place so that the pins don't show. This would be even more difficult if you couldn't see what you were doing.

Some women move their straps closer to the ends of their sholders in order to hide the straps. That could cause all kinds of problems later on in the day. Talk about restrictive motion!

Well ladies, I have two products and a website you'll be interested in. The first is called StrapTraps. Described simply, a StrapTrap is: "A small fitment which is attached to [the] shoulder seam of a sleeveless blouse etc... into which a bra strap can be placed. The fitment stops the bra strap slipping in to view." They come in white or black, and are available in retail packs of six pairs as well as in multi packs. If you can sew on a button, you can sew on StrapTraps.

The other item is called Brabuddy. This is a simple clip that converts a regular bra into a crossback-style bra, by pulling the two straps together. Not only does it prevent the bra straps from falling off the shoulders, but it also allows the wearing of racerback tops without the bra straps showing. The maker also claims that it is cleavage enhancing.

The Brabuddy is available in packs of three, with one each of clear, white and black.

The LG Accessories website at offers a variety of products to help women hide their straps.

The Doorganizer

OK, so the name is a little corney but the product is cool.

How many times have you been ready to leave your home and realized that you had no idea where your cane was? You search frantically while your ride waits outside and right as the driver returns to the door to tell you that they're going to leave, you find it. Why put yourself through all that?

The Doorganizer is a hanging reminder and organizer for the doorknob. Ideal for keys, eyeglasses, cell phones, palm-held devices, music players, envelopes and yes, your cane can fit into the strip at the back!

  • Constructed of stitched heavyweight canvas-like fabric
  • Three open pockets and clip on the front; open loop strip on the back
  • Hang on the doorknob where you exit the house to hold often-forgotten essentials

Click this link to purchase The Doorganizer from The Container Store.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Weekly Script

Here's a great companion to any described movie. "Most all screenwriting experts agree on this piece of advice: "The best way to learn to write screenplays is to read screenplays." I have been collecting screenplays and scripts for over 25 years because I love movies. I wanted to make a site for movie lovers as well as screenwriters to come and read scripts in their proper formats. Because of this, you won't find any transcripts (well... maybe a couple) on this site." "Some of the scripts that you will find on this site can be found elsewhere on the Internet but they will be presented here in their proper formats. I have, if needed, reformatted these scripts using formatting software (Final Draft, Movie Magic, Sophocles, etc...) but punctuation, spelling and grammar are unchanged from the original."

The scripts are presented in text file (.TXT) format. This way they can be imported into almost any viewing or editing software.

Click this link to visit The Weekly Script website at

GoodSearch for a Good Cause

GoodSearch is a search engine that's a bit different than all the other search engines we've been using for the past several years.

When you search the Internet with GoodSearch, you can help a charity. What a great concept! Every time you search for something online, GoodSearch will donate money to the charity of your choice. Click this link to check out Simply type in the name of the charity you want to help in the "Who do you GoodSearch for"? box. Then just click on the Verify button and you'll be all set to start searching.

After you're done with that, just go up to the Yahoo! search bar and type in something you would like to find. With every new search, $0.01 will be donated to your charity. That may not sound like a lot, but when you think about how many searches you usually do in one day, it equals out to a good amount. Plus, if you spread the word about this search engine to your friends and family, even more money will go to a good cause.

Of course, the charity you want to support has to be signed up with GoodSearch before anything will happen, so if you have one in mind, register them today! Either way you look at it, things don't get any better than this. Give it a try and do your part!

Skype and Your Home Phone

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, also known as Internet Telephony. If you have high-speed Internet (cable/DSL, LAN) on your computer, you can connect your phone to your computer and make calls. You must have a special adapter for this to work, you simply plug your phone line into the adapter instead of plugging it into the wall jack. The adapter is then plugged into your Internet modem, which allows VoIP to convert the voice signal from the phone line into data that travels over the Internet.

The cool thing is, you still use your phone the exact same way. You will hear a dial tone and you dial out just like normal. With VoIP, everything is combined into one function. Incoming calls will also ring just like normal.

The main reason you might decide to invest in this new technology is to save you money in the long run. VoIP services cost approximately $20 to $30 a month, plus you're not paying for a phone line and Internet connection separately anymore. The VoIP plans also include local and long distance calling, while some even provide international calling.

You may be wondering about sound quality. In most trials, it's excellent. Sound quality is determined by the reliability of your Internet connection. If you don't have problems with disconnections, this could be a good way to go. If you do have frequent stops or shut downs with your connection, VoIP may not be right for your home.

The quality also depends on what you're doing on your computer at the time a call comes through or when you're making a call. If you're downloading a huge file off the Internet or doing several things at once in different programs, you're going to get a "choppy" sound result.

Another thing to consider is that when you have a power outage, your phone won't work. If you're computer doesn't work, your phone won't either. If you have a cell phone to use as a backup, you shouldn't have any problem, but the power thing is definitely something to keep in mind. Also, VoIP services don't normally work for 911 emergency calls.

If you're interested in learning more about VoIP or getting the service hooked up, you can call your ISP and they can help you. You may be able to bundle your phone service with your current Internet service so you will save some money.

As you can see, VoIP has some pros and cons, but it's definitely something to consider as today's technology continues to expand.

Skype Calls with Your House Phone

One of the most popular applications in the VoIP world is Skype: Skype allows you to make free computer to computer calls as well as free calls to any land-line phone in the United States and Canada. With the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, you can connect your home phones to your computer and use Skype or your regular phone service to help save you money.

You don't need to upgrade all the phones in your house in order to take advantage of VoIP technology. Turn your existing phones into Internet phones with the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, which blends VoIP access with your existing landline phone service to optimize your call options without changing normal calling habits.

The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick is a control switch that converts analog phones into VoIP phones without losing analog features. The software program runs on your PC and acts as a "decision engine" that can access either your VoIP provider or the landline, depending on your settings.

One of the major concerns with VoIP technology is the processing of emergency 911 calls. The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick provides you with landline access in the event of a 911 call, power outage, or service outage. The control switch defaults all calls to the landline during these events, ensuring the traditional access to 911 call centers.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase the Skype-Certified VoIP Stic from the Smarthome website.

NOTE: The included software may not be compatible with screen readers and screen magnification programs. Be aware of this before purchase and save purchase receipts in case of compatibility issues.

A much less-expensive route is the USB Skype Phone. It comes in black or white, features a bright LCD screen and keypad, is fully compatible with Skype functions such as Skype titles, dial, and contact lists. It even supports the Skype speed dial function.

Click this link to purchase the USB Skype Phone from the ThinkGeek website.

What? You don't like being tied to a cable, even if it's a USB cable? Well, click this link to check out the Skype Cordless Phone.

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